Proust and his Time Capsule of Curiosities
1: The Search for the Real Proust
2: Proust in Love and Hate
3: Proust’s Daimon or Genius
4: Proust’s Sense of Humour
5: Death and a Cork-lined Room
6: The Cinematic Proust
1: The Search for the Real Proust
They say people are changed by reading Marcel Proust. Life is forever after Proustian in some way. Your life could become more perceptive, more acute, more attuned to the cycling back of memory; you could develop, like Proust, a heightened sense of your position in society which is perhaps lower than you want it to be but can be altered through networking. You may be impelled to slow down stop and reflect when you eat a madeleine or tartine, or any piece of cake, and sip tea, to relish the sensation more than before, to just pay more attention to simple events and sensations. Or you could be flooded with memories which cannot ever be fully possessed as the original moment that triggered the memory is gone. Another way to describe this is with the trendier word ‘mindfulness’ becoming more aware and now the sun is in Cancer is a good time to embrace this by staying at home in your nest, your sanctuary.
Proust was advocating for profound meditation over a tea-cup a century or more before the ‘mindfulness’ industry cranked into gear. What he proposes is that our everyday rituals and routines can be transformed into a Proustian act which is kind of sacrament where even a solid cuppa Yorkshire tea and a Jammie Dodger will achieve the same as the madeleine. The tea is merely the trigger for the mind to do its thing and open the cabinet of memories, dreams and reflections. The result is a massively increased awareness of life as the gift that keeps on giving.
Proust has Neptune conjunct the Ascendant. This is the most obvious signature of an artist or mystic, or both in his case. It stands at the doorway of his chart so people probably perceived him first as immensely sympathetic, kind and concerned about them, and only leaving confusion as a smoky after-taste. Neptune is in Aries – where it will go in March 2025. This could make a spiritually minded leader, of this world, but not quite wholly in it. He floated through his social engagements and all the disappointments caused acute suffering and through suffering he created art. He was a pioneer of sorts as an Aries Ascendant, but his real territory of exploration was his inner world. He may have been present at the parties of dukes and duchesses, and been devoted to his friends, but while he was talking to them, he was also somewhere else in a state of deep reverie and reflection in this liminal space, lacking any boundaries. This Neptune is trine to Saturn in Capricorn and square the Sun/Mercury in the home base of Cancer in the 4th. So it acted as both a restriction and a stimulus to his work as an observer of people.
Any link at all between these Saturn and Neptune points to huge artistic talent as the art is borne from the suffering and struggles that Saturn creates in the artist’s life. Liz Greene compiled a long list of Romantic era musicians or composers who exhibited the Romantic attitude from Albeniz, Bach and Chopin to Vivaldi and Wagner. She found that they almost all had a configuration of Neptune-Saturn aspects in their charts. This is not Gauquelin-style statistical analysis but simply seeing the common pattern there.
Proust has this too as there is something spiritual here, not religious so much as tending towards the mystical ability to see the divine in the daily trivia of ordinary events-and that he spent his life in search for lost time which became his salvation. It is well known that responses to Proust can be over the top where people become zealous converts belonging to a cult. Walter Benjamin translated him into German but was afraid of the influence of Proust’s style that it would smother his own style so he stopped reading him. Virginia Woolf said reading Proust was for her, almost ‘sexual’. Proust takes over the mind of readers so that the boundary becomes blurred between writer and reader- he can make his thoughts sounds familiar like they are your own. This is the overlay of Neptune.
But this transformation of becoming more ‘Proustian’ depends on actually reading the 3, 200-page novel- that’s 1,200, 000 words ‘A La Recherche du Temps Perdu.’ For that you need patience and time as you may never get around to it, or you may start, but never get to the end, or have what is very common – long-sentence-phobia. Proustian sentences are famously long, spiraling and serpentine and can stretch across two or three pages. They ebb and flow just like the moon that rules his Cancer sun sign. The paradox is that time spent reading Proust is never wasted. If you manage to get to the end of one of the longer sentences and understand the intended meaning, then you may have the kind of epiphany that readers of Proust love- his sagacity made luminous by Jupiter in Cancer its sign of exaltation where the nuggets of wisdom are nourished by emotional warmth, part of a quest While Cancer still remains thrifty, Jupiter in this water sign bestows a more positive and generous outlook than in any other sign.
Proust was born July 10th 1871 in the sign of Cancer with Moon in Taurus and Ascendant in Aries. He has Earth, Fire and Water all represented but not much in Air. The moon is tranquil in Taurus and relishes simple pleasures repeated often like cups of tea and quiet contemplation on a park bench or at a music concert. He admired kindness in others above cleverness, although he himself was clever and rules of politeness mattered to him along with sensitivity to others, graciousness and generosity. He would take pains to ask questions of others rather than talk about himself. Neptune is strong as it is also the esoteric ruler of Cancer, presiding over the primordial waters. His north node is at the zero point of Cancer too which is very powerful, influencing all that follows, indicating a life spent developing an acute and elastic kind of emotional intelligence.
What makes this Cancerian truly a Cancer in the classic sense is that as a boy little Marcel could not go to sleep without his mother’s kiss. The highly educated Jeanne Proust (Taurus) worried about him being too dependent on her which echoes Melanie Klein’s theories of object relations and Bowlby’s theory of attachment. This is the psychological trap that in early development we complexes emerge that come back to bite us in our relationships later in life. We may act out the mother archetype without realising. Proust was close to his mother as everyone noted- thoughts passed between them without barriers- yet one critic was able to notice also that ‘the love of the mother includes hatred of the mother’. Her Uranus, Pluto conjuncts his Ascendant /Neptune and her Sun falls on his Moon in Taurus. To say she was influential is an understatement. But as in all relationships there was a mixture of smooth and challenging between them. Cancerian feelings must be protected and secure at all costs. This idea is represented by the moon which rules his sun sign making him more emotional than at first expected and feeling every single emotional nuance his whole life purpose. This is all concentrated further by being in the 4th House of home where we find a stellium of Jupiter, Mercury, the Sun and Uranus.
His philosophy is that life is unlocked by the key of memory, triggered by its involuntary form which is not ordinary recall, but depth recall. So, he treated his own past as a treasure trove, a museum full of objects but in his case they were people as curiosities that he put in his cabinet. The sign of Cancer is associated with collectors; they are the lifelong creatures of libraries, archives, collections and museums. Proust was diligent and painstaking in his collection of impressions of people he encountered all of which he sifted, carefully catalogued and used as ciphers in his great work- In Search of Lost Time or as it is sometimes translated – Remembrance of Things Past.
Proust’s appeal is subtle and slow. His words have a peculiar way of worming into your mind and they leave an imprint. His elongated sentences have a weft and warp into an overall flow. So you’d imagine he had an elevated Mercury. It is prominently conjunct the Sun in Cancer – not just under the sunbeams but combust – just 37 minutes away. So there is an explosion of words and thoughts, especially since this conjunction is sandwiched between Jupiter and Uranus on either side. In his case Mercury was not diminished but shines even more brightly. They are all nestled in the 4th house of self and of ancestors. Jupiter lends grandiosity to his sense of heritage here, or to opulence of furnishings in the home, being from an illustrious family, or it could speak of foreign connections and travels but Proust made few journeys except on the inner level. He was not aristocratic but from reading him you’d think he was a natural aristocrat as he writes with insider knowledge of elite families.
Yet he was also very much the homebody like many Cancerians. They rarely stray far from home. He was fond of Normandy, but otherwise did not travel much. The exception was to Italy. Once he became a follower of English art critic John Ruskin he ventured as far as Venice to experience the understanding of that city’s exquisite Gothic architecture in his own way. Some say that Proust’s novel is structured with the same intricacy and precision as a grand cathedral- that’s Neptune on the Ascendant again. In the astro-location chart, his Sun/Mercury line runs through Florence, close enough to Venice and his Jupiter line runs through Paris, meeting Neptune on the norther coast towards Belgium.
But if the words ‘flow’ it can begin to sound more like music and Proust is a good example of Walter Pater thesis that “all art aspires to the condition of music.” His novel was actually called a roman–fleuve a ‘river novel’ because of its length, and the endless circularity, its dipping into infinity as you can start reading anywhere, pick up again anywhere. So again, Neptune reigns supreme as it is right there at the portal of his chart, on the angle. All his angles are cardinal, so these forceful initiatory energies were very powerfully activated throughout his life, during every transit across the first, fourth, seventh and tenth houses. He may have appeared mild mannered but he had great force and an indomitable will. The Ascendant is in Aries pushing forwards, wanting to lead. Neptune is porous so it dissolves what it touches so becoming invisible, taking a back seat so very paradoxical. He pioneered this ‘modernist’ style of an individual consciousness, ponderous meandering thoughts and river-narrative style so he was a pioneer of literature and he did it ‘his way’ – very Aries Ascendant- by going deep inside himself beyond the surface perceptions to lead others in the same direction.
His style was recognised in December 1919 in Sagittarius, when he won the Prix Goncourt. This was just when both his progressed Sun and Mercury had arrived in the sign of Sagittarius home of publishing and honours and the progressed Moon conjuncted progressed Pluto in Cancer. The Moon/Pluto were conjunct his natal Part of Fortune and the Moon was applying to Jupiter. By the following year, 1920, the progressed Moon also arrived in Sagittarius ruled by Jupiter and his reputation as a unique writer expanded beyond France into the world.
2: Proust in Love and Hate
When thinking of Proust’s loves and hates bear in mind that his Sun sign was in Cancer which moves sideways and can be clingy like a crab. It is watery, emotional and protective. Proust’s love life was complex. He adored women as companions. He even idolised them, and he ran after the ones with boyish looks such as Collette, but at the same time he discreetly had relationships with men such as Reynaldo Hayn (Leo) and Lucien Daudet (Gemini) and Alfred Agostinelli (Libra).
Probably no other woman could compete with his mother. He was inconsolable when she died and his friends believed he might go mad with grief. His Venus was picky in the early degrees of Virgo, landing in the sixth, so perhaps he wsa not easily satisfied and his daily social relations were the centre-point of his life, yet his Mars was in Libra able to be the great mediator in conflicts, but also in the sixth and so probably the source of much irritation and allergies that affected his health. With both Venus and Mars here, it feels he was uneasy to satisfy. And with an Aries ascendant he probably caused the same conflicts that he mediated, through putting himself first or through excessive fastidiousness, yet also with concern for his effect on others and as an arbiter of peace.
Hahn was a composer from Venezuela who had studied with Saint-Saens. When with Hahn Proust came closest to his love being mutual yet it also provided the experience for him to write so well about erotic obsessions for Swann in Love. Hahn and Proust shared common tastes and even decided to write a biography of Chopin together. Hahn adapted to Proust’s sensitivity and shifting moods and health. His Chiron/Moon is on Proust’s Ascendant, Neptune and Moon. His asteroid Eros conjuncts Proust’s Pluto so that may have been explosive. With a strong Mercury ruling both his MC and Ascendant – Hahn was fluent in multiple languages- he even encouraged Proust to take his writing more seriously and so remained a formative influence.
But Proust was complicated and according to Edmund White “for Proust passion was a nagging need that became only more demanding the more it was denied. Indeed, Proust would drive away all his lovers (in his fiction as in his life) through his unreasonable demands.” This hints at the cloying nature of the Cancer native, who once hold of someone, does not like to ever let go, and yet may even be perversely spurred on by rejection. When talking of Albertine, it plays out very much like Carmen’s motto: ‘If you love me, I don’t love you.” In love, Proust said. “we choose badly.”
One of Proust’s lovers/obsessions was Alfred Agostinelli (Libra) who the model for Albertine in the book. He was a driver and mechanic in Proust’s employment and a happily married man by all accounts. They met when Alfred was 19. They too had powerful synastry to the nodes and major planets. Agostinelli had a boisterous and fun-loving Mars and Jupiter in Sagittarius. He was noted as a motoring enthusiast and his nick name was ‘the nun of speed’. Perhaps it was too much adventure as these connections with Proust’s chart triggered the Chiron links too causing the experience of loss and pain. Agostinelli’s life ended tragically aged 26 in a plane crash where he drowned in the Mediterranean. Proust had even predicted that Alfred’s obsession with machinery and the steering wheel would be his ‘death throes’. But he also offers in his writing, a kind of solution for the paradox of suffering that Chiron brings to us by saying that the best defence against suffering is to live it to the full.
Proust could also make enemies and Cancer never backs down from a lifelong feud. Since Mars is the ruler of Proust’s chart we’d expect some difficulties in friendships, as it is in Libra ruled by Venus, but even though he was a dandy, an idler, he did have a duel, an actual shoot-out with guns with author Jean Lorrain (Leo) quite a feisty character and critic who could not care less what people thought of his decadence. He was known as ‘the ambassador of Sodom’. He preferred rough trade, yet wore make up himself to seduce those manly men.
Yet it was Proust who made the challenge to a duel. Lorrain aimed at forcing Proust to own up to his tastes in the bedroom and not hide behind a heterosexual protagonist. And this feud persisted as genuinely ‘mortal’ enemies. Proust was defending his honour and his private love affair with Lucien Daudet that Lorrain said should be publicly acknowledged. Their synastry is fascinating as Lorrain’s Mars-Moon happens to land on Proust’s sun in the middle of the sign of Cancer. The bullets in the duel of dandies missed their mark however and no one was hurt. Lorrain’s Mars is also opposite Proust’s Chiron in the 12th house, so the point of tension at which his suffering made Proust most vulnerable to such enemies.
There is a stereotype is that Proust was a total snob- therefore why should we read him? But is it not also snobbish to say that? Even those who are adamant that you should only read A La Recherche in the original French, or not at all, are similar to the characters in the book who look down their long noses upon lower pond life around them. You can enjoy Proust in English as he is better than a lot of writers so his writerly qualities translate well.. However you might add that the elegant sonorities of the French language are missing in English. But the loss is the same if you don’t read it in either language. One reason not to miss out is that it can be surprisingly hilarious the way these snobs are observed and satirised. It can be acerbic comedy. The worst thing a snob can do is pretend not to be one and Proust pointed that out. As James Joyce (Aquarius) said after meeting Proust, it was not such a meeting of great minds, to Joyce, Proust talked about ‘way too many duchesses’ but the duchesses are there to pinpoint the foibles of human psychology. He cannot help exposing their flaws.
Yet Proust himself was subjected to the snobbery of Gide in 1913 when after misreading a sentence Gide rejected Proust’s submission to the Nouvelle Revue Francaise. And this triggered yet another lifelong antagonism with André Gide, a late Scorpio, with a moon in Cancer. Gide called him an ‘idler, an arriviste and a snob’ but that situation was reversed and Gide was forced to eat his words and personally apologised to Marcel. In January 1914 Gide sent a grovelling letter just when Pluto was transiting Proust’s North Node and all the planets in Capricorn were opposed to his planets in Cancer. While these letters were written in polite phrases, the standoff was very real. Gide’s Ascendant conjuncts Proust’s Mars and squares his Sun/Mercury. Anyone like Proust with Mars square Jupiter and Saturn – a T-Square of big players- would be dealt a hand in life that is full of challenges and tensions. These are the three contrary energies, so all tied together would have stimulated him all Proust’s life in lockstep being in square and opposition.
Proust loved reciting names. He tirelessly lists aristocratic posh sounding names and titles not as the would-be longing to be part of the elite, but as a magician would the magical incantations and barbarous words from a dusty-old grimoire. It is certain that Proust had occult knowledge as did many of his contemporaries like Lorraine and other artists in the Symbolist movement. In one scene, Proust describes the Baron de Charlus’ behaviour as like a magician, deep in the pure concentration of will power on his subjects, usually valets, servants and assistants, young and attractive, reading them like a book of spells. Scorpio partially rules Proust’s 8th house so he’s a natural in this terrain for going deep. Proust also has this quality. His entire philosophy could be stated as outlining the web of correspondences and synchronicities of life which are as intricately linked as the Qabballah. Some lines even indicate astrology behind the scenes. When the Baron de Charlus lets down his hyper ‘virile’ public face, and behaves slightly effeminately when mocking his female relatives, he is said to do so “under the transit of Venus Androgyne.”
3: Proust’s Daimon or Genius
That the future like the past casts a shadow on the present is also a theme. I wonder if Proust had been an astrologer he would have been able to divine the secrets of time and we would have an even more astonishing novel – finding a way to be less bound by Time’s restrictions by playing with it as a tool for insights. He was driven by something to complete his work before he died. So he was in touch with his Daimon– or ‘Genius’ (Lot of Spirit) is at 9° of Aquarius so ruled by Uranus- and he certainly was the ambassador for Uranians. So it is original in its scope and very ‘modern’ in feel. Since traditional astrology would not use Uranus as ruler, it would be Saturn, so the Daimon would have been the hardest of taskmasters, egging him on to do his great work before he died. The Daimon– known also as the Lot of Spirit- is that point in the chart which marks an urge. This is the impetus that drives us towards our ultimate direction for lifetime achievement, whether we like it or not- the Daimon brings us back to what we agreed before we came.
There is a good deal of rumination on death in Proust. Is death preordained or can we change the timelines he seems to ask. He hints that Robert Saint Loup almost went willingly to his death and reflects like an astrologer on the nuances between Fate and Destiny-and how that reaches our awareness. Though he does not use the terminology of astrologers such as the Daimon and Heimarmene, (the Greek goddess of Fate/Destiny) he does a good job of describing the contradictory feeling of going to meet your own death.
“And may it not be possible that accidental death too……………is somehow recorded in advance, known only to the gods, invisible to men, but revealed by a peculiar sadness, half unconscious, half conscious, (and even insofar as it is conscious, proclaimed by others with that complete sincerity with which we foretell misfortunes which in our heart of hearts we believe we shall escape but which will nevertheless take place) to the man who bears and forever sees within himself, as though it were some heraldic device, a fatal date.”
He is talking of a man who is filled with a sense of purpose going to the trench warfare in northern France during WWII. This elevates his character from his previous trivial pursuits and is like a blossoming, a fruition as he comes more alive when male bonding with French soldiers on the front. This knowledge comes to some people, is of how to free the will from the karmic elements of life is through Heimarmene, which is the potential offered to people to gain wriggle room and not be so much bound by fate, unless we want to be, and we accept our ‘lot’ in life, and that acceptance comes to free the will from fate through higher understanding or through the feeling that we are fulfilling a higher more collective purpose.
Proust also did military service and liked it but acted quite like a regal dandy in aristocratic circles, perhaps even pompously with that Jupiter in the 4th, and yet also with ultra-cautious behaviour: so held back by Saturn, propelled forward by Mars and expanded in all directions by a kingly Jupiter, all from the home base. He talked a lot about War. But his Mars in Libra would have gifted him with the art of compromise so able to see many sides of a dispute and not so impulsive in argument. He would have reasoned his way out of them diplomatically. But that it also is in the sixth house points to the numerous allergies that bothered him on a daily basis as Mars enflames the body and causes conflicts with co-workers.
Saturn is about Time- the old Chronos. It is strong in its own sign of Capricorn- it has a CEO quality there and aims to become a master of his world for good or ill. This heavy but hardworking planet rests on the midheaven and A La Recherche swarms with observations about Time and the book is almost an original thesis on the subject. In fact Proust is the novelist most associated with a new psychological understanding of Time akin to Freudian analysis or even to Quantum theory. For him Time was the elastic tool of his art which is why he is ideal to read when you have Time on your hands. So he stirs the pool of time to stretch it to a more amoeboid phenomenon, so the Jupiter enlarges the boundaries, but there are also some scenes of sexual bondage in the novel of the Baron de Charlus. Proust and his narrator were all for showing the foibles of lovers as they sought the latest fetish, from whips, chains to iron beds, to rats in cages, or craved how to possess their lovers and restrict their freedom till it kills all the love as Swann kills his love for Odette through jealous and obsessional moods..
So there we have the influence of Jupiter (abundance) making Time (Saturn) more elastic. There is also a scientific kind of analysis of human behaviour, that might please some and shock others but always with a determined objectivity. His father was an epidemiologist specialising in cholera- so this Saturn may point to his father. The irony is that he revelled in exposing what others did but never admitted to it himself, which baffled Lorrain and Gide, though everyone in his close circle knew of Proust’s personal tastes. The word perdu in the title implies time is not just lost but also wasted. Ritual and rehearsal anticipation and recollection which is also a discovery of how to become more dedicated to art through exploring involuntary memory and this he said was his life’s work to produce ‘art’ in the highest sense as it fulfills a life purpose more than any other activity in life. This was his real Daimon as basically he is saying that art transcends time.
4: Proust’s Sense of Humour
With all this seriousness and snobbery, you would think Proust had no sense of humour. Yet, there’s a lightness to Proust’s style that extracts the heaviness out of the equation, as there is acerbic wittiness too that adds sparkle and it produces a good few belly laughs. Who would think that A La Recherche can be laugh out loud sort of book? But it is. That would be the Sun conjunct Mercury conjunct Uranus that elevates the mindless chit-chat of from mere dinner table anecdotes, to a fine sense of the human comedy. The jokes are liberally sprinkled throughout. His wit which remarked in his time and endures after his death. The wit is palpable but also lucid; the flashes of insight are filtered through the warmth of the sign of Cancer so are not as caustic as they could be if Mercury was in Scorpio. But he loved to poke fun and expose foibles with a well developed sense of mischief and sometimes cruelty as in his description of how people’s faces age. But he also loved to nurture people and make a fuss of them. He had a fine nose for how love especially makes fools of people.
He thought time was actually wasted on ‘conversation’ and he preferred being solitary as being alone expanded his ability to generate deep insights and his ability to write them. This alone-not status, wealth, aristocratic connections, or even love affairs and friendships- he said the pursuit of art, gifted him with a profound and long-lasting engagement with life.
But with Uranus conjunct Mercury it could affect the native’s health- in increased nervous complaints and sure enough, Proust suffered from severe asthma (Mercury rules the lungs) especially towards the end of life where his neurasthenia kept him bedridden. He was in fact a sickly war baby born during the Franco-Prussian war when people were starving on the streets of Paris and food was scarce. Neptune on the ascendant also would have made a hypersensitive baby with uncertainty about his health.
He was such a social observer that he dissects society with the zeal of an amateur botanist or ornithologist into a cabinet of curiosities. Perhaps he saw writing novels in a Scientific way with that Saturn on the MC. That he was Jewish and homosexual gave him the ability to penetrate society’s games of status and hypocrisy as a double outsider. Some said he was ambivalent about his mother being a Jew. He makes a weird reference to ‘Saturn’s outrider’ (Cities of the Plain, p 31) when explaining different type of men who like men- and this reads startlingly honest, fresh and non-judgmental. Most likely he meant ‘Uranian’ as it was then common at to use this word for those who preferred their own sex and Chiron had not then been discovered as it is Chiron that is the scapegoat. He mentions the Dreyfus case several times in the novel and Dreyfus was the classic scapegoat of French society during the time of his trial. But it polarised opinion very much as is happening now.
His novel is close to what was called ‘stream of consciousness.’ Critics called it the ‘Nile’ of language. But it also causes confusion and frustration in readers as it is a kind of rabbit hole into which you fall like Alice. Once you’ve fallen in, it is hard to get out. His work fails to be abridged. The longest sentence is in Cities of the Plain and has 958 words. Monty Python did a sketch which was an All England Summarize Proust Competition where an odd bunch of contestants stood in front of Proust-ometer and had to condense the whole of Proust in 15 seconds. The mockery of Proust is also is a kind of badge of honour and admiration for Proust’s monumental achievement because the task proves impossible. Not one of the contestants can get past the first volume.
5: Death and a Cork-lined Room
Four volumes of In Search of Lost Time were published before his death and then the rest emerged posthumously. And 100 years on his reputation has grown establishing this novel as probably ‘the’ best of the 20th century. His chart is a Nocturnal chart, born at 11.20pm with almost all planets below the horizon with the exception of Saturn itself a nocturnal planet.. The novel also has many serious reflections on time, old age and death. And there is a sense that in creating this cork lined room where he spent most of his time, was like a self-created tomb, in which he prepared for death. The sign of Cancer is the cosmic womb so from womb to tomb appears to be the span of life to death. He even called it an ‘ark’ like being in Noah’s ark. The cork was supposed to keep out the noise of Paris from outside and he was acutely sensitive to noise. The cork also acted as a barrier against pollen and dust that triggered his asthma and allergies. But he was forced to move out and lost the cork so the story of this room at 102 Boulevard Haussman has been exaggerated into a legend. He actually tried to sell the cork to a cork maker’s for a wine merchant as it could not be easily removed- one more riff on the Neptune theme. So in the new apartment he suffered even more from the noise he had tried to erase.
That Pisces rules his 12th house and that Chiron is there explains very well that the native retreats to the cave of his bedroom, and possibly through illness that stimulated the creativity that comes out of total quiet and darkness. So he sequestered himself away in this room effectively becoming a recluse. He wrote only at night and attempted to sleep during the day. He wrote in a semi-recumbent position using his knees as a desk, drifting in and out of consciousness, inhabiting that liminal space between worlds. No doubt hyper-sensitivity would encourage a melancholy state of mind. Even though Proust’s Chiron was in Aries, Pisces still rules the 12th house and is predominant there and Neptune presides on the Ascendant. So we do get a flavour of his Piscean issues which would be with religion and faith and surrendering to life where the feelings are acutely sensitive, perhaps making him feel like a martyr or victim of the high society he was so obsessed with. That was his religion, his cult. The Chiron in Aries bit is where he felt forever weakened in his physical form.
He was already known and had received accolades upon his death by pneumonia on November 13th, 1922. But it was still a small circle of followers. The novels continued to emerge even after he was gone leaving his mark on the world. The chart on the day of his death has many pointers that times were difficult and could be bumpy for him. Transiting Saturn was conjunct his natal Mars in Libra which opposed his Chiron. The transiting Sun was opposite his natal Pluto. Transiting Pluto was approaching his natal Sun so if he had not passed then, the challenge to live on would have continued. But it was at this point in November of that year already almost exact conjunct his natal Jupiter.
What is hard to miss is that he died as if having a prearranged appointment with Chiron- it was his Chiron return at 51 years old. Chiron in Aries tend to be forged-in-the-fire type of people. The generation that suffered hugely was that post WWI from 1918-1927. They were the ones left behind, where they had to just pick up all the broken pieces and carry on into the so-called ‘roaring’ twenties. He was buried in Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris where people visit the relatively modest tombstone to pay respects.
6: The Cinematic Proust
The Neptune on the Ascendant points also to Proust’s work being ripe ground for cinematic treatment. He was a very visual writer with an abundance of imagery. There are several films based on his great novel- though it is a different experience than the encounter with Proust’s sentences. Volker Schlöndorf’s Swann in Love (1984) and Raúl Ruiz’s Time Regained (1999) are the two stand-out films that attempted to realise the complexities and nuances of the Proustian universe and put them into moving image form.
But as André Aciman says “how do you film time?” It is a task just out of reach, unreachable task and we can only wonder what Luchino Visconti’s film of Proust might have been like, had he made it. It was never realised. Visconti, a Scorpio and fellow water sign, had Jupiter-Neptune conjunct in Cancer and he would have brought a depth of understanding to Proust and that visual ability to translate it into the language of cinema.
But Ruiz’s film is unique as it uses a technique of the camera panning in layers like a stage set being slowly disassembled. It shifts focus just as the mind moves on to an association. That could feel strange to viewers, yet it is reflective of how involuntary memory actually works- characters seem to glide from the present to the past and back again so it has a quantum flavour to the scenarios. Each moment seamlessly reverberates with other moments in Proust’s life. He describes the madelaine effect which is the ‘involuntary’ action of memory that fuses the past with the present is like an ‘optical illusion’ that places him ‘outside time’ and reduces the fear of the future, whereas: “The images presented to us by the voluntary memory can, it is true, be prolonged at will, for the voluntary memory requires no more exertion on our part than turning over the pages of a picture book” (p 231-2).
So what emerges from the involuntary is richer, deeper, less logical, more ‘right brain’ acting more like a wave than a particle, as in quantum theory, and the film comes close to the movement and energy that comes from the pages of Proust that can send you into a trance state. And few writers achieve the honorary status of having their own adjective. But now we know what ‘Proustian’ means.
There’s so much in Proust that lies just under the surface, and the peculiarity of the style could be annoying- so it is not for everyone. He is highly controversial still as explained gay sex in a matter of fact way, and he was loosely connected to some dubious families- he moved in those kind of circles. But reading and reflecting as Proust can help you understand all that the feeling nature of Cancer can bestow upon the native. It can be almost psychic in its depth. He was that archetypal mother of all within his domain. But also it can help to appreciate the magic of Mercury conjunct the sun for a writer is a gift, which translates that complexity of experience into a wealth of words. It is an experience of the magic of perception of love, friendship, social behaviours, death, and the weirdness of time into a river of words in which you can either drown or find yourself baptised anew.
Henry James once said that a writer should “try to be one of those upon whom nothing is lost” and this goes for Proust. He was the type of Cancer upon whom not any little detail of the life around him was lost. He read everyone as though they were a sheet of music and he knew how to play it well. He captured it all. I’d like to think that this applies to astrologers too who go through life using a natal chart like Proust used a madeleine to unlock the secrets of time and magnify depth of understanding.
© Kieron Devlin, Proteus Astrology, July, 2022. All rights reserved
See the Video Version
Carter, W. C. ( 2006 ) Proust in Love. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.
Michel-Thiriet, P. (1989 ) The Book of Proust ed. Frèmy, D., trans. Dalley, J., London: Chatto and Windus.
Painter, G. (1996) Proust: A Biography. London: Pimlico.
Proust. M. (1970 ) Remembrance of Things Past (Vols 1-12) trans. Montcrieff, S. and Meyer, A. London: Chatto and Windus
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